This is a question we hear being asked more and more nowadays. And before anyone starts to react violently, rest assured that the answer is yes.
It is, of course, a valid art form and we will not dwell any more on that question.Instead, let’s try and understand why there is even any doubt on the matter. Let’s try and explore the possible reasons why people do not so easily understand the validity of photography as art.
Believe it or not, we have technology to thank for this. While much of the innovation and advancement in photography can be attributed to the constant growth of new technology, we have to admit that the same phenomenon is to blame for the doubt and the under-appreciation of photography as art.
Several decades ago, photography was probably only 1% of how available it is now. Photography and the technology of cameras was such a luxury for a good fraction of the past that only wealthy people had cameras and they were only used for special purposes and occasions. In the latter part of the 20th century, photography became more available through the 35mm format film which later lead to instant cameras and of course, the emergence of digital photography. In a matter of a couple of decades we’ve gotten to where we are now.
Where we are now is a time in which most people readily have a camera in their pocket everywhere they go. Yes, even the bathroom. The advancements in technology made it possible for everyone to own a camera and have it with them at all times. This allowed the art form of photography to become something so casual. People photograph literally anything and everything and that diluted the pool. For us photographers who use our cameras to produce art, we are pretty much swimming in a sea of digital noise trying to keep our boats floating. This really is not anything new but what allowed for this to happen is the fact that the change was rather drastic.
Drawing, sketching, and painting have been generally accepted as art forms. We never see or hear anyone questioning the validity of that. Why? Because as young kids, we were taught this in art class. Children as young as 2 years are encouraged to take crayons and draw whatever they like and their parents would even post those drawings on their walls or on the fridge. This is why we’ve all been programed not to question that art form and no matter how simple and silly the kids’ drawings are, it never lead us to doubt that what Da Vinci, Picasso, and all their friends are doing is indeed art.
So yes, photography is and will always be a form of art and we should celebrate that. The challenge lies in the fact that as the means of creating a photograph is becoming more and more casual, we have to rise above all the noise for our work to stand out. On top of knowing the strategies of social media and having your work mounted on gallery walls, it is the impact that our photographs make that will give it any form of significance.